When you mention the Cook Islands to a lot of people, quite often they will just look at you blankly, as they have probably never heard of the place. The Cook Islands are a true jewel of the Pacific, and is often never even considered by many as a possible holiday destination. But the more you dig into this truly amazing destination, the clearer it becomes that it is a truly remarkable place.
The Cook Islands or in Cook Islands Maori ‘Kuki Airani’ are comprised of 15 different islands. The combined land mass of these islands is only 240 square kilometres. However, the Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone encompasses nearly 2 million square kilometres of ocean.
The Cook Islands are placed into two distinct groups, the Southern Group and the Northern Group. The Northern Group consist of the following islands, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mangaia, Takutea, Manuae, Mauke and Palmerston. The Northern Group consists of Pukapuka, Penrhyn, Manihiki, Rakahanga, Suwarrow and Nassau.
The people of the Cook Islands are extremely proud of their Polynesian heritage which has just a hint of European influence. With their long history filled with folklore, yarns, tales and stories of piracy, adventure, hidden treasures and romance, have made this rich and truly vibrant culture what it is today. Coupled with their traditions and customs, it makes the culture all the more unique and mysterious.
The first thing you will fall in love with in the Cook Islands is the people. They are wonderfully warm and friendly, and always do their utmost to make you feel like one of the family. Be it just a friendly chat, offering you a lift, giving you some local sightseeing tips or inviting you to dinner, they are a true icon of carefree island living.
Don’t be alarmed the very first time you hear the pounding of a tattoo on a hollowed out log. I know we all instantly is a thing of some British explorer in a huge cauldron with vegetables being cooked for dinner. But this is far from the case in the Cook Islands. Music is in the heart of every Cook Islander.
From their rhythmic and mesmerising chants and songs of the Kaparima, or the wonderful harmonious hymns that may hear bellowing from the local church by the local church, or the local bands at a nightclub, their melodic and musical nature lives and breathes in everything these people do.
In addition to being musical, the people are exceptional entertainers. It is a sight to behold to see their legends and folklore relived in dance and acting. One thing you must take in is the traditional Ura. You will be taken on a magical journey that shows you love, hate, hurt, passion and desire, a storyline that outlines the true cultural heritage which is beating ever so strong in the heart of the locals.
Arts & Crafts
The people of the Cook Islands are considered amongst some of the finest wood carvers and artists in the entire Pacific. They have their own very distinctive and unique style, which is clearly evident in their carvings, tapa cloth designs and tribal tattoo’s. Tattoos to the locals are far from just being the local trend. They are worn with great pride, and tell a story of each individual’s origin, tribe and heritage.
Being some of the best wood carvers, they people of the Cook Islands are used to making a wide array of items from wood. Not only was wood used for making weapons such as spears, battle clubs and arrows, but extremely useful day to day items are also made of wood, such as fish hooks, canoes, bowls and cups. There are many of these wonderful carvings on display in the museums on the islands, as well as souvenirs and mementos to take home.
One of the most amazing carvings is that of the Tangaroa which is the symbol of the Cook Islands. According to Maori mythology, Tangaroa is one of the great gods, the god of the sea.
There are also many other items that the locals make. Being exceptional weavers, they use locally found fibres such as coconut, kikau, pandanus and rito to make baskets and bags that can be used for carrying crops, fishing and collecting shellfish. These fibres are also used to make roofs for huts, ropes, eel traps, sandals, fishing nets, mats, hats and fans. You will also find many of these beautiful woven items adorned with shells and seeds collected from the local areas.
You will also find many fine pieces of art that have been painted with water colours or oils, as well as many intricate sketches.
The island of Rarotonga is the best place to stay and immerse yourself in this wonderfully rich, vibrant and creative culture. Of all of the islands, Rarotonga is the most highly populated. It is home to just over 13,000 people, and the population of the entire country is just under 18,000. The island weighs in at just over 32 square kilometres.
The country’s defence and foreign policies are actually the responsibility of New Zealand, however it is all conducted in very close consultation with the Government of the Cook Islands.
Even though the locals are considered New Zealander’s, they are actually technically classified as Cook Island nationals, which other New Zealander’s can’t lay claim to. The currency used in the Cook Islands in the New Zealand Dollar (NZD).
Tourism is without a doubt the greatest industry of the country. The Cook Islands are also involved in offshore banking, pearl farming and marine and fruit exports. On average, there is more than 150,000 tourists that visit the country annually.
The town of Avarua which is located on the north coast of the island of Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands.
The main gateway to the Cook Islands is the Rarotonga International Airport which has an IATA code of RAR. The main airlines that operate from the airport are Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue, Air Rarotonga and Air Tahiti. To view available flights and associated costs, head on over to our flights to Rarotonga section.
Where to Sleep
One of the best things about accommodation in Rarotonga is that there is a place for every budgets. It ranges from backpacker hostel type venues, to bed and breakfasts, motels, self-catering properties, right through to 5 star hotels and resorts.
If you’re inclined to splurge whilst on holidays, some of the top end hotels and resorts are truly amazing. Imagine staying in your own private villa, with its own plunge pool, spa and garden shower.
You will also find that the higher end hotels and resorts also have day spa’s and kid’s club!
So to find your perfect hotel room, wander over to the accommodation in Rarotonga area of our website.
Being an idyllic tropical getaway, there is a good selection of great places to eat and dine like the High Tide Bar & Grill, the Edgewater Spaghetti House Pizzeria & Grill, the Tuoro Licensed Restaurant & Cafe Black Rock Villas, the Kikau Hut, the Shipwreck Hut, Aro’a Beachside Inn, the SilverSands Restaurant & Bar, the Tumunu Garden Bar & Restaurant, the Coco Grill Restaurant & Tiki Bar, Sandals Restaurant & Barefoot Bar by Pacific Resort and the Yellow Hibiscus Restaurant & Bar.
If you would lie to experience some of the real local fare and take in a cultural show, you definitely can’t go past the Te Vara Nui Village for dinner. If you like to get out an about and party all night, then the Going Troppo Night Life Tour is the way to go!
Taking in the Sights
There is a good range of land based activities you can participate in whilst in Rarotonga. These tours and activities give you an excellent way to not only learn more about these fiercely proud people and their culture, but also take in the sights of this truly amazing destination. Some of the activities to add to your bucket list are Pa`s Trek, the Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours, the Island Way Adventures which includes trekking, dance and drum lessons, Coconut Tours Quad Bike & Buggy Tours, the Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Centre and the Island Discovery Cultural Tour.
In the Water
Of course as you would expect being an island in paradise, there is an absolute motza of water based activities to participate in such as Dive Rarotonga, A Big Fish, Wahoo Fishing Charters Deep Sea Fishing, Captain Tamas Lagoon Cruises, Black Watch Charters Deep Sea Fishing, Seafari Fishing Charters, The Dive Shop, Paradise Sailing Tours & Charters, Tropicbird Sailing and Adventure Cook Islands – Adventure Hire and Reef To See.
The Cook Islands and in particular Rarotonga is definitely worth considering if it’s an island getaway you seek. You will also be surprised at how much cheaper than other island based holidays such as Hawaii it can actually be.